Hazardous waste can have a devastating impact on coastal communities. Many pollutants are absorbed by aquatic life and build up in sediments, leading to poor fish health, decreased fish and shellfish populations, habitat loss, and restrictions on fishing and other recreational activities.
Pollution from past and current commercial and industrial activities has impaired our rivers and coasts. NOAA focuses on hazardous waste releases with the potential to harm marine and coastal resources, including chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls; a class of chemicals previously used in manufacturing that remain in the environment for many decades, accumulate in living creatures, and pose health hazards to humans, wildlife, and fish., and dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; a group of organic contaminants that are often the byproducts of petroleum processing or combustion. Many are toxic to aquatic life and several are suspected of causing cancer in humans., and toxic metals such as lead and mercury. These substances are released into coastal habitats and waterways from many commercial and industrial activities, such as shipbuilding, oil storage and transfer, and chemical manufacturing, among others. Released contaminants can also include discarded products like cleaning fluids, pesticides, and batteries.